I can’t remember a time when the terms “racist” or “racism” were used with the abandon that now infects our political discourse. These are hateful words - akin to the worst racial slurs bigots apply to others. Yet some partisans apply the term to anyone who disagrees with the current Administration’s policies or who calls for voter identification requirements.
Several personal experiences over the last few months illustrate the perniciousness of this phenomenon. At a dinner party at the home of local friends this summer, the hostess - a prominent member of our community - asserted that anyone who disagrees with President Obama is a “racist.” That was a conversation stopper! After thinking about the statement for a moment, I suggested that it was tragic to believe that bigotry toward the President is the only reason for policy disagreements. Such a view makes it impossible to give credence to the ideas of someone who disagrees with Administration policies and therefore to have meaningful dialogue on the issues confronting the country.
A few weeks after this experience, another well-known member of our community wrote a letter to the editor in the local papers stating that television ads produced by Karl Rove’s American Crossroads organization criticizing Obamacare were motivated by “racism”: “I think it’s time to speak out against the obvious racism inherent in the blame game that pretends to be something else. The lies are designed to feed the need to justify hate.” I wondered what could possibly be in the author’s mind. She was one of the volunteers at the Democrats’ registration booth at the Aspen Saturday Market immediately adjacent to the Republicans’ booth and we had exchanged pleasantries over the course of several Saturdays. It’s a sure bet that all of the volunteers at the Republican booth had a view of Obamacare similar to the one portrayed in the Rove ads. Did this lady think “racism” motivated our views on Obamacare?
In a similar vein, in a meeting in the Pitkin County Clerk’s office to discuss upcoming election procedures, one of the participants - not a member of the Clerk’s office - opined that “Everyone knows that Republicans want to suppress the vote.” This has become another way of saying that Republicans want to exclude minorities from the voting process based; it is suggested, on racial animus. In fact, Republicans support voter identification requirements as a means of ensuring ballot integrity. If a person is not legally entitled to vote in a particular jurisdiction but is allowed to vote anyway, legal votes are diluted. In 2012, we heard the volunteers of the other party at the Aspen Saturday Market call voter identification requirements a “poll tax,” hearkening back to the discriminatory policies of the Jim Crow South.
Recent voting patterns in our country indicate an electoral chasm between blacks and whites in our country. When he came into office, President Obama promised a “post-racial” America. His Presidency has failed to achieve that goal. To the contrary, the country seems more divided along racial lines than ever. What a terrible legacy of the first black President of the United States.
Frieda Wallison is Chair of the Pitkin County Republicans.
A graduate of Smith College and Harvard Law School, she practiced law for more than 30 years in New York City and Washington, D.C. as a partner in major law firms, before retiring for the good life in the Roaring Fork Valley. Beyond serving as Chair of the Pitkin County Republicans, Wallison is Republican Chair of the Third Congressional District in Colorado and a member of the Colorado Republican Party Executive Committee. She is also the President of the Snowmass/Capitol Creek Caucus and a member of Aspen Rotary. In her spare time, Wallison is a real estate developer in the mid-valley. She is married to Peter Wallison, the Arthur F. Burns Fellow in Financial Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, and they are parents of three and grandparents of five.
You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org